Gulf Air says it
will soon announce details of the leased 777 aircraft it will put into service
on the London-Bahrain route, and rumours abound that these will be aircraft
originally intended for Jet Airways.
Speaking at a
lunch in association with the Guild of Travel Management executive committee,
Gulf’s CEO Bjorn Naf said that the airline would announce details “very soon”,
with the 777 aircraft expected to come into service in the first quarter of
2009. He added that they would be leased for three years from another airline
which “had ordered them but not needed them”, and that the product would be “the
very best available”.
will bridge the gap while Gulf Air forges ahead with its refleeting process, with
13 of its 30 aircraft due to be replaced with new planes by the end of 2009.
And although there has been no official announcement as yet, if the rumours on
various online aviation forums are to be believed, it looks like the leased
aircraft will come from Indian carrier Jet Airways.
Certainly Jet has
a surplus of aircraft, having recently leased three 777-300ERs to Turkish
Airlines (see online news January 12). If the rumours are true and these B777-300ERs are sourced from Jet Airways’ allocation, then Gulf Air’s premium passengers are likely
to be in for a treat, as Jet’s product includes fully flat beds in business
class and private suites in first.
It will also make
rivals such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar sit up and take notice. After several
years of watching these carriers expand and bring out superior seating products
while it scaled back its services, Gulf Air now seems to have come through this
period of restructuring ready to challenge its rivals as (as Naf put it) the “carrier
of choice”. Among the initiatives that Naf believes will achieve this are a
ten-minute car-to-airside check-in goal for premium passengers at Bahrain, with
a similar 15-minutes arrivals policy, and 30 minutes for onward connections.
Gulf Air has
employed James Park Associates (responsible for the
business class seating on Singapore Airline’s A380s, as well as the business
and first class product on the carrier’s 777-300 ER aircraft) to revamp its
livery, lounge offering and of course its seating product. The airline is
expected to unveil its new 600-sqm lounge at Heathrow’s T4 later in the year,
with the new onboard product following in 2010.
Earlier today Naf spoke at a breakfast for
business travel journalists, where he outlined plans for future Gulf Air
destinations. He said the carrier was hoping to start a service to Milan
and then Munich in the next couple of years but was also looking at Moscow and
Russia in general, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Madrid.
He described Milan
as a “powerhouse” with a catchment area of 25m people and where Etihad and
Emirates were moving into and Lufthansa was building up a hub.
“These destinations are on our radar screen based on
data and analysis by our network team,” he said.
He said that destinations on the east coast of America, which could include New
York, Washington and Boston, would be
considered when the new 777s arrive. Gulf is also in talks with the Indian government
abut increasing, at first, its capacity and then its frequencies to
destinations like Mumbai and Delhi.
For more information visit gulfair.com.
Report by Mark Caswell and Stanley Slaughter